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Rangers 3, Red Sox 0

Buchholz comes up short

Rangers’ Wilson stymies Red Sox

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / April 23, 2010

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Word swirled out from the offices and clubhouse at Fenway Park that Clay Buchholz, who started last night, would be getting more starts. Even as Daisuke Matsuzaka returned from Pawtucket to join the rotation, it would not be Buchholz taking a back seat.

It will be Tim Wakefield, a club source confirmed. Buchholz, meanwhile, did his best to demonstrate why the Sox had made the decision.

As manager Terry Francona said, “I thought he was tremendous.’’

So Buchholz will continue to get his chance to make good on his promise, with the confidence of his organization behind him. That faith was rewarded last night, at least for the first six innings. The righthander, whose 1.80 ERA entering the game belied his performance thus far, looked worthy of it against the Rangers, who had little success against him in the early innings.

But Buchholz allowed three straight hits — double, single, double — in the seventh and gave up three runs in the inning.

It would be too much for the Sox to overcome, as they mustered just two hits off C.J. Wilson until the seventh inning, and just six overall.

After two straight dramatic wins, the Sox had a game that lacked heroics, and lost to the Rangers, 3-0, at Fenway Park.

“In the first inning, he threw all strikes,’’ Francona said of Buchholz. “He established all his pitches, fastball, drove it down the zone, got some swings and misses, good changeup, slider, cutter, curveball.

“But in the seventh, they obviously respected the way he was pitching. They stayed up the middle, the two lefties stayed left-center. The righty hit the ball up the middle. That’s where the damage came. He pitched tremendous.’’

He was so good for six innings that he reached double-digits in strikeouts (10) for the first time in his career. Still, the Sox took two of three from the Rangers, and enter a series with the horrendous Orioles. That could be the cure for what ails the Sox.

Not that the Sox are satisfied.

“I don’t think we were down in the depths or anything just because of four games against Tampa,’’ Mike Lowell said. “I don’t think anyone here is really that happy with the way we’ve been playing. I don’t think we’ve been playing up to our capabilities at all. I mean, walkoffs are exciting, but I think you’d rather have a 7-2 game where everything just seems solid and crisp. We’ll take them when they come, but I don’t think we’ve been playing the way we should lately.’’

Asked the reason, Lowell said, “I don’t know. The effort’s there. I don’t think guys are quitting.’’

Last night , they simply didn’t have any success against Wilson. So as Buchholz kept the Rangers off the board for six innings, so did Wilson, who allowed two hits and two walks in that span.

“Movement on his fastball, slider, changeup,’’ Francona said. “Enough velocity, enough movement, and he threw strikes. We didn’t mount a whole lot. Early in the game I thought we squared up some balls. We just never strung anything together.’’

That unfortunately took the focus off Buchholz, the loser in a game he easily could have won.

“I felt like I’m moving in the right direction,’’ Buchholz said. “From the first outing to the second to this one, things are clicking a little bit more. Had all four pitches working tonight, hadn’t had that all season.’’

The Rangers got on the board when Josh Hamilton led off the seventh with a double, and scored when Nelson Cruz singled up the middle. After Cruz stole second, David Murphy followed with another double and the Rangers led, 2-0, with no outs.

Chris Davis grounded to first and Buchholz struck out Taylor Teagarden for the second time for his 10th K. But Andres Blanco dropped a drag bunt down the first base line, which Buchholz gathered and threw wildly to first, allowing Blanco to score. It got uglier from there. Right fielder J.D. Drew picked up the ball and threw to third to keep Blanco on second, but it kicked up on Adrian Beltre for the second error of the inning and Blanco was safe at third.

It was 3-0, Rangers, and Buchholz was done.

“Up until the seventh inning, I felt really good about it,’’ Buchholz said.

“I felt like I missed two spots with the fastball, and they both got hit for doubles. They were down. I was telling myself all day if I miss, just miss down. They put two good swings on them, drove a couple of runs in. Other than that, I felt good.’’

He was also showing progress in not being affected by runners on base. That was particularly impressive given how much pressure the Texas lineup puts on a pitcher, with a team full of speedsters and the inclination to steal.

“He was quick to the plate, but under control,’’ Francona said. “He came out of the chute just hitting his spots with a lot of finish on his pitches.

“The things we’ve talked about, throwing over and everything, you also can’t get around the fact that they’re a very aggressive base-running team, and he did a very good job of unloading. He lost track of the runner one time when he left early. But for the most part, he managed the game very well.’’

In fact, Buchholz said the one time he thought that he wasn’t going to worry about a runner was when Cruz stole second in the seventh.

But even though it ended poorly for Buchholz, it was a needed start for the Sox. Boston’s rotation had a 5.76 ERA over the first 15 games, a disappointing and unexpected statistic for a club that believed it had put together a top-of-baseball starting staff.

“[Buchholz] threw the ball great,’’ catcher Victor Martinez said. “C.J. Wilson threw the ball great, too. One has to lose, one has to win. Unfortunately we take the loss. But, for me personally, Clay was on since his first pitch.’’

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